South Asia

Sri Lanka erases colonial name, Ceylon

Sri Lankan tea pickers
Image caption The Ceylon Tea label is thought unlikely to change as the industry believes it's a brand of quality

Sri Lanka's government has decided to change the names of all state institutions still bearing the nation's former British colonial name, Ceylon.

The government wants the country's modern name to be used instead. The decision comes 39 years after the country was renamed Sri Lanka.

The change will be made as early as possible in 2011.

Reaction has been mixed to the new year's resolution that gets rid of what some see as a vestige of colonialism.

The minister of energy submitted a cabinet memo this week to change the name of the Ceylon Electricity Board, whereupon the president suggested the name Ceylon be removed entirely.

'Long overdue'

The island's British colonial name, derived from an earlier Portuguese one, was dropped in 1972 when the country became a republic and Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state.

The adopted name, Lanka, to which an honorific "Sri" was added, is much older and is close to both the Sinhalese and Tamil names for the island.

But the name Ceylon has persisted in many institutions, including the Bank of Ceylon and the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation.

One ministry now has the job of ensuring that names and signboards are altered.

The Ceylon Tea label, however, is unlikely to change, as the industry believes it's a brand of quality for the country's most famous export.

Some will be sad at the name change.

One young Sri Lankan told the BBC that the word Ceylon had historic meaning and added value to some institutions.

A blogger wrote that the post-colonial name was associated with "terrorism, war and [the late Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai] Prabhakaran".

But other Sri Lankans see the change as long overdue.

One young man told the BBC it was high time that names across the country showed some uniformity.

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